For information about successful communicators who started to type with support (FCT) please click here
To read new research on FCT from Italy - please click here
Coming Out Fighting - 15 May 2012
On 14 May 2012 the Melbourne Herald-Sun published a very long attack on Anne McDonald, Rosemary Crossley, the Anne McDonald Centre, and Facilitated Communication Training. The journalist was Andrew Rule.
Rosemary was offered a chance to submit a short OpEd piece for publication on the following day, Tuesday 15th. Here it is, before the cuts imposed by the subeditor.
Usually Anne needed someone to support her arm so she could point to letters, but for some years in the eighties she used a rod on a headband to type without support. It was slow and painful. She gave it away after doing some TV interviews to show she could type.
are helped as I was helped
they will say more than I could say.
ABC TV - 7.30 Story - March 13, 2012
On 13 March 2012 the ABC's 7.30 program put to air a segment on Facilitated Communication Training. In response, the Centre issued a statement, which can be read in full here. We apologise to the people without speech whose communication was unjustifiably called into question by the program.
The Centre Relaunch - November 13, 2011
On November 13th we celebrated twenty-five years of the DEAL Communication Centre, and we changed its name to the Anne McDonald Centre to celebrate the work of Anne McDonald, who died suddenly late in 2010. So we had a party... with cakes and balloons...
Here's the inspiring address from Maree Ireland (above), Australia's first non-speaking lawyer.
Facilitating Communication, Changing Lives
DEAL Communication Centre (now the Anne McDonald Centre) has been providing people with little or no speech with the tools for self-advocacy for twenty-five years. One of the tools we've developed over that time is facilitated communication training (FCT), which we use with some people who have difficulty pointing and making the sequences of controlled movements needed to create sentences on communication aids.
In FCT literate students are given support to access keyboards while they acquire the hand skills and co-ordination necessary for independent typing. At the same time they learn to use AAC strategies requiring single selections such as Yes/No and multiple choice independently so they are not totally dependent on facilitation. The method has been successful for many people and is used around the world. Some agencies call it supported typing.
Recently I attended the Communication and Inclusion conference held at MIT in Boston where three hundred people came together to hear about the latest developments in facilitation research and practice. The conference was dedicated to Anne McDonald.
The first keynote was delivered by Jamie Burke, a young man with autism. Jamie started to learn to type with facilitation aged 5, and now types without support. He started to speak at age 13 after getting a Lightwriter which said what he typed. Jamie's now 22 and in final year uni. He read his presentation fluently and then took questions, typing complex answers quickly and independently and reading them out.
Arriving back with new ideas for using the i-Pad to develop hand skills, new DVDs of people typing independently, and new validation research involving eye-tracking, to be greeted by a campaign against facilitated communication which appears to rest on data from the last century was a shock. To put the record straight, attached is a list of articles, books and videotapes, including research studies that validate facilitated communication.
[Please see Attachment #1 - Select Bibliography of FCT].
Like any therapeutic strategy, facilitation may be misused, but there's ample evidence to support its effectiveness when best practices are observed. Because journal articles only get you so far, the best evidence for the value of facilitating communication is the people who have used it - real people, communication aid users whose lives turned around once they could demonstrate their competence, first by communicating with support and then by acquiring through long practice the hand skills needed to use communication aids independently.
Lucy Blackman, above, is featured on the Queensland Department of Communities calendar for August 2011. (Please see Attachment #2 - Lucy's Story Aug 2011). She's just one of many - and, luckily, the technology is now available for you to be able to see them.
Have a look at Here We Are World, a video of a conversation between five adults with ASD at an earlier conference, and enjoy their wit and humor (Jamie Burke, mentioned above, is one of them). It can be seen on the Home Page of the Institute of Communication and Inclusion at Syracuse University, along with other videos about facilitation leading to independent communication aid use: soeweb.syr.edu/centers_institutes/institute_communication_inclusion/about_the_ici/Videos.aspx
The five adults who now converse so readily all started to communicate by using keyboards with hand support, and took many years to achieve their current skills. The two older men starred in the recently released full-length documentary Wretches and Jabberers, chosen by the Autism Society of America as their flagship for Autism Awareness Week 2011. The trailer and purchase details can be found at www.wretchesandjabberers.org
Copies of Wretches and Jabberers are available for short‐term loan from Deal for people living in Australia. If you email email@example.com with your postal address we'll put you on the list.
In the end, though, the most important thing about communication is the power that it gives. That's why everyone should have the right to communicate using the tools that suit them best. Sadly people who cannot speak are just as vulnerable to mis-statements and mis-assessments today as Anne McDonald was in 1979. There's a lot to learn from her experience. (Please see Attachment #3 - A Lesson from Annie).
Anne McDonald 11.1.1961 - 22.10.2010
If you would like more information on FCT please read the short outline of FCT at
Facilitated Communication Training, a textbook about the use of facilitation, is also available on the website:
Breaking the Silence, a short video clip of children just starting to use communication aids, with and without facilitation, may be viewed on the Home page. The full version, 17 minutes long, may be ordered from the www.annemcdonaldcentre.org.au/our-resources
If you have any questions please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
WRETCHES and JABBERERS
Premiere in Times Square NY on April 1, 2011
Wretches and Jabberers is a full-length doco featuring the communication odyssey of two men with autism who cannot speak, and who have learned to communicate by typing. They travel the world meeting other adults with autism who also use keyboards to communicate. Some participants type independently and some still require some facilitation, but they all report similar difficulties with discrimination and isolation.
All the keyboard users shown only started to communicate as teenagers or adults, using methods developed at Deal.
Chammi Rajapatirana talking with his mother in Sri Lanka
See the trailer at
To read a longer story about the movie go to
A NEW DEAL
At the Annual General Meeting on November 30th, 2010, the Deal membership resolved to change the name of the communication centre to The Anne McDonald Centre, with the line below reading A new DEAL for people with little or no speech. The change will be implemented during 2011, 25 years from the opening of Deal as Australia's first centre solely devoted to the needs of hearing people with little or no speech.
ANNE McDONALD 11.1.1961 – 22.10.2010
It all began with Anne McDonald. Back in 1977 Rosemary Crossley began to establish communication with a small group of children at St. Nicholas Hospital – the Beanbaggers (so called because the hospital had no wheelchairs so they all sat in beanbags), led by Anne. The Health Commission, who ran the hospital, did not take
this well. Rose needed help, and we formed the Beanbaggers’ Support Group. For a body that was asking governments for large sums of money that name lacked dignity, and in 1979 we changed it to DEAL (Dignity, Education, Advocacy and Language ‑ A New Deal for the Handicapped). In 1979, too, Anne fought her way out of St. Nicholas, and joined the committee of DEAL as our first consumer representative. She remained on the committee for thirty-one years.
In 1980 Anne and Rose published Annie’s Coming Out, the story of how Anne had struggled through to literacy and autonomy. The methods described there were the foundation of DEAL’s work with successively more groups of people with little or no speech. People with acquired brain damage, people with Down syndrome, people
with autism, and people diagnosed as having intellectual disabilities responded to the teaching strategies and positive expectations developed with Anne.
Annie’s Coming Out was made into a film in 1984, raising awareness across Australia and around the world of the needs and the potential of people without speech. In 1985 DEAL won state and federal government funding to set up the DEAL Communication Centre, to see clients and to change the system and to advocate for those who had no voice of their own.For the next twenty-five years Anne McDonald threw herself into DEAL’s work, writing articles, giving papers, and working with other activists to ensure that the human rights of people with disability were not overlooked. In 2008 she was presented with the National Disability Award for Personal Achievement at
The Proloquo 2 Go:
AAC at the iStore
WARNING – most of this article is based on the Proloquo2Go web site. As with any communication aid, it’s important to try before you buy!
One of the problems with technology for people with disability is that it has to contend with Moore's Law. Moore's law is, roughly, that the power of computers doubles every two years. This means that people who produce equipment specifically designed for people with disabilities must expect that by the time they get through the process of design and production they're going to have to compete with PCs that have twice the capacity of the ones they were looking at when they started. By the time the equipment has been marketed and debugged (in that order - small manufacturer's simply can't do the amount of testing necessary to release perfect products), not to mention prescribed and trained with, the general purpose computer will have made still more strides.
The latest demonstration of the speed of advance of general purpose computing is an AAC program designed for use with the iPhone or iPod Touch.
According to the manufacturers, Proloquo2Go™ is a new product from AssistiveWare that provides a full-featured communication solution for people who have difficulty speaking. It brings natural sounding text-to-speech voices, up-to-date symbols, powerful automatic conjugations, a default vocabulary of over 7000 items, full expandability and ease of use to the iPhone and iPod touch.
Its obvious selling point is price. iPhones are not cheap, but they're a lot cheaper than most dedicated AAC devices, which can run over $Aus10,000 for aids which combine dynamic screens with the ability to speak what the user types. The software, too, is not expensive (for this field). The company's press release stresses the cost advantage:
AssistiveWare today announced the release of Proloquo2Go for iPhone and iPod touch. Proloquo2Go is the first full-featured communication solution for people who have difficulty speaking not costing thousands of dollars. Finally, powerful augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) comes within reach of consumers and schools without access to funding. Never before was using a communication device so portable and so cool as with Proloquo2Go and the iPhone or iPod touch. Proloquo2Go is a true break-through in price and technology, bringing natural sounding text-to-speech voices, up-to-date symbols, powerful automatic conjugations, a default vocabulary of over 7000 items, full expandability and extreme ease of use to the iPhone and iPod touch.
Proloquo2Go is a perfect solution for anyone who cannot afford spending thousands of dollars on an Augmentative and Alternative Communication device and yet wants a solution that in terms of sheer communication power and ease of use rivals solutions typically priced over 10 times as high. It is also perfect for teenagers and young adults who want a device as cool as the iPhone or iPod touch. Not to mention, this a great solution for children and adults with autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, developmental disabilities, or apraxia. Proloquo2Go can also serve adults with acquired disabilities such as ALS, stroke or traumatic brain injury. It can be a useful solution in hospital and rehabilitation settings.
"The price is so compelling," said Dan Herlihy, owner of Connective Technology Solutions, "and the software and hardware platform Proloquo2Go runs on so radically improved over current devices in its category that if not quite a paradigm shift, markedly raises the bar for accessibility, ease of use, and affordability."
"When we set out to design Proloquo2Go we knew we wanted to provide the kind of power typically only found in desktop applications," said David Niemeijer, AssistiveWare's CEO. "The iPhone has allowed us to do just that, develop a full-featured, fully customizable communication solution that fits right in your pocket."
For more information, screen shots, tutorials and videos visit the product site www.proloquo2go.com
Yes, the bar has been raised - if only on cost. We should welcome this new and fierce competitor to the AAC equipment scene.
As with any AAC device it’s important not to buy before you try. Many potential users will not be able to handle the small buttons and will find the changing screens hard to navigate.
But this is about to change. On January 29th 2010 Assistiveware said that
On Wednesday, January 27th, Apple announced the iPad, a device with a 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen multi-touch display. Proloquo2Go, along with most of the 140,000 iPhone apps will run on the iPad. Current Proloquo2Go users will be able to download Proloquo2Go to the iPad once the iPad ships at the end of March.
Now PL2Go will really take on the big boys.
February 1, 2010